Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Shawwal 6, 1445 H
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A planet in crisis...


How many of us are aware that there is hardly any space on earth that is safe from pollution? For many of us, pollution is something that happens far away in some industrial zones.

But why then we face acid rains on our cities and country sides and oil spills in our oceans? Why our forests are diminishing into stupor?

Let’s talk about air pollution alone. In the past, it meant smoke pollution and was limited to urban areas. Today, air pollution has become more subtle without any geographic, political, or social boundaries. Today, even the far-flung polar regions of our planet, which were once considered pristine, are now polluted.

“With every breath we take, we suck in tiny particles that can damage our lungs, hearts, and brains and cause a host of other health problems," points out a report by Earth.Org.

According to a recent study by the international scientific group Earth Commission and published in the journal Nature, air pollution is dangerous at local and regional levels. Air pollution isn't just an environmental concern; it's a public health crisis that affects every one of us.

The World Health Organisation cites air pollution as one of the greatest environmental risks to health. “By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma," it says.

In 2019, 99 per cent of the world’s population lived in places where the WHO air quality guidelines were not met. The combined effects of ambient air pollution and household air pollution are associated with 6.7 million premature deaths annually.

Although climate change and air pollution may sound like two very different issues, they are closely interwoven, so by reducing air pollution, we also protect the climate.

As a UN Environment Programme report states, “erupting volcanoes, earthquakes, dust storms, and meteorites smashing into the Earth’s crust are natural phenomena that can cause climate change and air pollution.”

In addition to these potential threats, we humans are also contributing to air pollution and global warming through our resource-intensive lifestyles.

“We’re producing and consuming more than ever before, and we’re generating more greenhouse gases as a result, as well as air pollutants in the form of chemicals and particulate matter," the report points out.

For the last several decades, world leaders meet and take decisions to repair the ozone layer, protect the oceans, and phase out deadly forms of air pollution. But many of these events often end in acrimony!

Examples include big climate events that have been around us for a long time. World leaders and celebrities often jet in and join them, while the global media reports every move in the corridors of power and concerned citizens protest outside. Finally, most of these summits end up as talking shops!

Look at the current COP28 climate conference in Dubai that ended on Tuesday, although a final outcome of the summit was not available till I finish these lines; reports indicate that countries clashed on Saturday over a possible agreement to phase out fossil fuels.

As UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell told reporters during the Dubai COP28, "We do not have a minute to lose in this crucial home stretch. There is still a chance for negotiators to start a new chapter—one that really delivers for people and the planet."

So we can be optimistic that the dedication and commitment of our environmental scientists and other experts along with a wise leadership will make a significant difference at these events. Along with them, we can all play our part in turning the tide!

Although history is littered with broken promises that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, there is still hope.

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